One of the benefits of self-hosting my own wordpress blog is having the ability to utilize plugins which can add more interactivity for readers. I tend to get pretty scientific when it comes to plugins. The right ones can definitely add to the overall message of a blog. The wrong ones or too many, can affect loading time which will almost certainly impact viewership. Below is the collection of the plugins that power my blog and also were used to create my widget area.
I like to think of jetpack as the “ultimate” of all plugins as it packs a massive punch, in essence taking care of the “brand new blogger.” Any tools needed to get started are readily available for users. To use jetpack, users must first create an account at wordpress.com. Once both accounts are connected, each tool can be further selected.
My top picks within Jetpack are…
- Askimet – filters our spam comments
- Notifications – Alerts me of new comments
- Publicize – Shares my blog to my twitter and facebook fan page
- Sharing – Allows users to share content
- WordPress.com stats – Provides data as to who is reading, from where, and what.
1. About.Me = Pulls in content from my about.me page including my bio, background images and profile pic. In addition, users can display “apps” from about.me which are connections to other social networks.
2. Disqus Comment System = If only it worked with my current theme! Disqus allows users to use their social media accounts to comment your blog. It literally simplifies the communication process and I absolutely LOVE it! Again, as soon as it starts working with my theme, I’ll be running it!
3. Add This! Follow and Add This! Smart Layer = AddThis is an amazing website that gives users the ability to create “widgets” for social sharing and interaction. What l love about Add This! is its flexible structure and visual editor which helps when trying to envision how a plugin works. “Add This! Follow ” is a quick and easy way to create “follow” buttons for blog sidebars. This is how readers will connect to you. “AddThis! Smart Layer” does even more. It adds a vertical share tool, gives reading suggestions to visitors and also provides follow buttons which can be turned on or off. By the way, “addthis” tools work across multiple blogging platforms. If you missed it, please check out their site for instructions.
4. Tint Widget = Tintup.com is an extremely cool plugin/tool that allows users to beautifully display any social feeds on their blog…any blog! There is a catch. With a free account, users can display up to two feeds at a time. To display more, users must purchase and it’s not cheap! With that said, I chose to display my instagram and pinterest pins together using Tint via my sidebar. Images can then be clicked and shared directly from the gallery. The size of each “tint” is determined by the user. With Tint and its accompanying plugin, users can use their social feeds to in essence feed an entire gallery on their blog. Just create the page, drop in the code and you’re done. Every post that you make to your social feeds will automatically show up on the page that you created.
Without a paid account, you can only display by username which can be a downer if you want to display by hashtag. You can scroll through my tent below in case you missed it in the sidebar.
The MOST powerful sidebar widget that is NOT a plugin
I probably use my “text” widget more than anything and often before I search for a plugin. The text widget enables users to embed anything into a sidebar area. Cosmetically, there are times when you may need to adjust the embed code’s height and/or width but the flexibility that this simple little text widget gives is well worth it!
I use my text widget to display my twitter feed, which I created using the widget tools built within twitter. To link to Braeden’s Art Plant, I embedded a smaller copy of his header and within the embed code linked to his blog. If I wanted to display my facebook fan page, I could do that as well through the text widget. Here is an awesome explanation as to how to do this!
Perhaps my most favorite web tool for the text widget is SnapWidget which is FREE web based way of embedding an instagram gallery. What I love about SnapWidget is that it’s literally so simple that you plug in your values, preview it, grab code, paste and you are done! In all honestly, it’s a lot simpler than Tint, which I used. If I needed to show instagram images by hashtag, I would definitely choose SnapWidget instead. Unlike Tint, Snapwidget does not scroll so you will only see images according to the number columns and rows that you provide. The scrolling feature may be a part of the pro version, but it is not free.